The Election Commission of India on 11 January 2018 constituted a 14 member committee to suggest changes to Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) in view of social media expansion.
The Committee will be chaired by Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha.
Terms of Reference of the Committee
• The committee will comprise of nine officers of Election Commission, one nominated member each from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), Law Ministry, IT Ministry, National Broadcasters Association and Press Council of India.
• It will study the impact of new media and social media during the “silence period”, the 48 hours period prior to elections and its implication in view of Section 126 of the RP Act.
• After a thorough study, it will suggest modifications to the election law and model code of conduct.
• It will examine the difficulties faced in regulating media platforms during the prohibitory 48 hours in a multi-phase election.
• The committee will submit its report within three months.
What led to the constitution of the Committee?
The order regarding the constitution of the committee three weeks after the Election Commission withdrew its notice issued to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for giving interviews to TV channels on 13 December 2017, a day before the second phase of the Gujarat polls.
The issue of notice to Rahul had evoked a strong reaction from the Congress party, which questioned the move on the ground that it did not initiate action against news channels for airing BJP president Amit Shah’s interview and Union Minister Piyush Goyal’s press conference, which took place on the same day of Rahul Gandhi’s interview.
The Election Commission eventually had to withdraw its notice and subsequently, the committee was set up.
Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951
Section 126 of the Representation of the People, 1951, prohibits displaying any election matter by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.
Who: Election Commission
When: 11 January 2018